Walking the Line: Making ane Dissolving Distinctions with the Viable System Model and Team Syntegrity

Allenna Leonard


The job of an organization, or an organism for that matter, is to manage its interactions so as to meet the challenges thrown up by the complexity of its environment. This requires that knowledge be obtained about itself and its environments now and in the foreseeable future. One of the most profound questions that must be addressed is whether the distinctions and assumptions that served well in the past will continue to do so. Beer’s Viable System Model is an effective tool to clarify distinctions and assumptions. It examines the five management functions that support productive operations, the seven vertical communications channels they use and monitor, the balance between these channels and the horizontal ones linking it to the present and future environment and the balance between its present and future emphasis. Once these distinctions have been surfaced, the Team Syntegrity process may be used to bring in additional stakeholders and information and dissolve them. Starting with a broad opening question, participants are invited to aim high and wide and introduce any factor they think might be important. If the mix of participants is diverse, new light can be shed on almost every distinction and assumption made in the context of the VSM exercise. Some may be confirmed, others abandoned and still others modified to take into account different perspectives on constraints and success criteria. These may be remapped onto a new VSM with different homeostats defined and different feedback loops designed to monitor them. Although the default profile of ‘the organization’ is a profit-making corporation, this path could be beneficial as well to governments, cooperatives and non-profits who are likely to have a broader range of stakeholders, who may include opposing parties, and multiple success criteria.


Viable Systems Model, Team Syntegrity, Requisite Variety

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